Discovery School is located in Whitby, Porirua and caters for students from Years 1 to 8. The roll at the time of this ERO review was 437 students and included 40 students who identify as Māori and 20 with Pacific heritage.
The school has had few staff changes in the past three years and has some long serving staff members.
Since the May 2014 ERO report, the Board of Trustees has co-opted a whānau group representative and more recently, a member of the Pacific community.
The school identifies valued outcomes for students in its charter as: aspiring to develop confident learners; well-rounded; socially skilled; and highly literate and numerate.
In 2015, the school undertook professional learning and development in literacy. In 2016, the focus was on the use of digital technology and developing students’ leadership of their own learning.
The school is part of the Northern Porirua Community of Learning.
How well is the school achieving equitable outcomes for all children?
National Standards data shows high student achievement overall in reading, writing and mathematics and equitable outcomes within the school for Māori and for Pacific learners. Achievement for both of these groups has improved since the previous ERO report. The school is aware of lower achievement for boys in comparison with girls in writing and is addressing this. Many students make progress and a small number accelerated their progress as a result of school action in 2016.
The school is well placed to sustain and continue to improve its performance in achieving equity and excellence. School leaders are strongly focused on providing the necessary conditions and processes to continue to enable equity and excellence. New initiatives, and curriculum developments to support the school’s vision and goals, are thoughtfully considered and systematically implemented.
Further developments in school processes for achieving equity and excellence include strengthening target setting, teaching inquiry and internal evaluation practice to better support acceleration and examine the progress of students at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes.
Equity and excellence
How effectively does this school respond to Māori and other children whose learning and achievement need acceleration?
How well is the school achieving equitable outcomes for all children?
National Standards data shows high student achievement overall in reading, writing and mathematics and equitable outcomes within the school for Māori and for Pacific learners. Achievement for both of these groups has improved since the previous ERO report. The school is aware of lower achievement for boys in comparison with girls in writing and is addressing this through its targeted actions.
A wide range of actions are taken in response to children whose achievement needs accelerating. Many students make progress and a small number accelerated their progress as a result of school action in 2016. Teachers’ responses are becoming more deeply focussed on students whose achievement needs acceleration. Developing a clearer picture, through target setting and reporting, about the progress made by this group of learners is a next step.
Clear guidelines support teachers making assessment judgements about student achievement in relation to National Standards. A good range of data contributes to these decisions. Moderation processes are well used to support dependability. Teachers and leaders constantly reflect on assessment practice to improve reliability. The focus in 2017, on moderation of reading, is appropriate.
School conditions supporting equity and excellence
What school processes are effective in enabling achievement of equity and excellence?
School leaders are strongly focused on providing the necessary conditions and processes to continue to enable achievement of equity and excellence.
The school has a clear focus on monitoring the progress of learners who have yet to achieve at the National Standards. There are good systems for knowing about student achievement over time and sharing this information. Teachers and leaders track and monitor individual’s progress well, and use data appropriately to make decisions about programmes and reflect on teaching practice. Schoolwide data is analysed by cohort, ethnicity and gender, and patterns and trends are recognised and investigated. There is regular reporting to the board of trustees about schoolwide achievement.
Leaders promote and participate in teacher learning and development. There is good alignment of student learning needs, teacher professional goals, professional development and processes for teacher appraisal and attestation against the Practising Teacher Criteria. Since the previous ERO review, the school’s appraisal model has improved and is further supporting teacher development and positive outcomes for learners.
There are clear expectations that teachers will learn how to improve their teaching by examining the effectiveness of their actions within the classroom and collaborating with their colleagues. This ‘teaching as inquiry’ practice is in the early stages of development. However, positive shifts in teacher practice that promote improved student outcomes are clearly the basis for the model used.
The school has taken significant steps to provide a more responsive curriculum for students. The introduction of digital technology and initiatives to support students learning to learn have been key recent developments.
Students increasingly know about their achievement and progress and have opportunities to make choices about their learning. Digital platforms are supporting increased student engagement and parent and whānau partnerships in their children’s learning. Teachers report that they are able to provide more timely individual support and learning pathways as a result of new approaches in teaching and learning.
Integration of te reo me ngā tikanga Māori within the curriculum and classroom programmes is an evident focus. The school works purposefully with their Māori community to enhance teachers’ and all students’ knowledge and experiences of te ao Māori. Māori learners participate in a curriculum where their language, culture and identities are valued and affirmed. They have opportunity to show cultural leadership and to use and have their strengths acknowledged.
New initiatives to support the school’s vision and goals are thoughtfully considered and systematically implemented. The perspectives and aspirations of students, teachers, parents and whānau are sought and responded to in review and development.
The board reviews its effectiveness and is actively improving its ability to scrutinise how well the school achieves valued student outcomes. Trustees value community input into school direction. An active Māori whānau group contributes to setting strategic direction, curriculum and supporting raising the cultural competence of staff.
Sustainable development for equity and excellence
What further developments are needed in school processes to achieve equity and excellence?
The school is well placed to sustain and continue to improve its performance in achieving equity and excellence.
Current school targets are expressed as a percentage of students achieving at or above National Standards. Consideration should be given to framing targets to better address and demonstrate the progress made by students at risking of not achieving at National Standard.
As new schooling initiatives are implemented it is important to continue to provide ways to collaborate across syndicates, to ensure consistency and smooth transitions for students.
Curriculum review is underway. Developing clear guidelines and expectations for the use of digital technologies, student agency and culturally responsive teaching is an identified next step.
Leaders use internal evaluation processes to assess what is and is not working well, and then to determine what changes are needed, particularly to advance their charter goals. A range of perspectives are gathered and data also contributes to the reasoning and emerging sense that leaders make during their evaluation processes. Continuing to strengthen how the effectiveness of programmes and initiatives is determined, with a clearer focus on student outcomes, is a next step in sustaining development.
Board assurance on legal requirements
Before the review, the board and principal of the school completed the ERO board assurance statement and self-audit checklists. In these documents they attested that they had taken all reasonable steps to meet their legislative obligations related to the following:
- board administration
- management of health, safety and welfare
- personnel management
- asset management.
During the review, ERO checked the following items because they have a potentially high impact on student safety and wellbeing:
- emotional safety of students (including prevention of bullying and sexual harassment)
- physical safety of students
- teacher registration and certification
- processes for appointing staff
- stand down, suspension, expulsion and exclusion of students
- school policies in relation to meeting the requirements of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.
How well placed is the school to accelerate the achievement of all children who need it?
Children are achieving excellent educational outcomes. School performance has been sustained over time through well-focused, embedded processes and practices. This school has successfully addressed in-school disparity in educational outcomes.
Agreed next steps are to continue developing:
- teachers’ inquiry into the effectiveness of their practice
- target setting to better examine the progress of students at risk of not achieving equitable outcomes
- collaboration across syndicates for consistency and smooth transitions
- clearer curriculum guidelines for the new expectations in teaching and learning
- internal evaluation to determine the impact of school developments on student outcomes.
ERO is likely to carry out the next review in four-to-five years.
Deputy Chief Review Officer Central (Acting)
9 May 2017